What are the most important considerations for Canada going into this year’s summit?
This summit is geopolitics and geoeconomics. A lot of the topics that the G7 leaders would prefer to be discussing in an ideal world, things like improving quality of life and the health of the planet, will take a backseat because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the realignment of Chinese politics toward Russia, and because of the threat to Taiwan. China and Russia have been talking quite openly about challenging the Western-led global order and promoting a new vision of a multilateral world order in which China and Russia are leadership alternatives for the world. There’s no substance behind that. If you asked leaders in Russia or China, what they would like to see, in a detailed way, about how the world order should be revised, they wouldn’t be able to tell you very much. It’s become a very, almost civilizational, West versus the rest of the world, and it’s preoccupying all the leaders who will be in Hiroshima.
We made a great deal out of our new Indo-Pacific strategy. The G7 countries are going to be looking to us to actually carry through on some of the commitments we’ve made, and to put some meat on the bones of some of the more abstract elements of those commitments. This is where the Prime Minister has an opportunity to demonstrate that he’s actually really serious about this. That means committing resources. That means investing the time, the trouble, and the human capital, to turn this abstract Indo-Pacific strategy into a meaningful long-term sustainable mode of engagement in the region. There will be a lot of eyes on Canada for that reason. Let’s hope we live up to the billing.
How seriously do you take efforts by the BRICS countries to establish similar forums as well as attempts to challenge U.S. dollar hegemony?
I don’t take the BRICS all that seriously, myself. I may be a bit of an outlier here, but frankly, they’re not a terribly like-minded group of countries if you ask me. India, for example, has a long-running, fairly intense conflict with China. At a military level, it’s serious enough, although it’s yet to flame into up into major wars since 1962. All these countries have internal challenges, they’ve got to-do lists that aren’t necessarily compatible with other countries’ to-do lists, and there is no alternative currency to the U.S. dollar at the moment. China is not taking the steps it would have to take in order to make the renminbi a reasonable competitor for use in a global exchange on a very large scale.
How does Canada perceive the role of the G7, especially within the current global security context, in shoring up alliances, reaching out to the Global South, and promoting Western influence in the face of what could be considered alternative, potentially illiberal, international orders?
The G7 is a voluntary grouping. It doesn’t have any formal authority and it gets a lot of bad press in the global south because it kind of looks like an attempt on the part of mostly Western countries to rule the world. If you look at their actual record, that’s not really what they do. They make a lot of commitments and do a pretty good job of keeping many of them. But those commitments aren’t passed out to the interests of the rest of the world, typically. It’s actually a good idea, in my view, to have a small, relatively capable group of like-minded countries who can just express solidarity on some of the key global challenges. The G7 does that well.
There will probably be a very good show of unity in Hiroshima. That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s as much unity below the surface though. For example, President Emmanuel Macron, on his recent trip to China, demonstrated that France is offline when it comes to most Western analyses of the nature of the China problem. There are, of course, disagreements among G7 countries on how best to support Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion and on the question of when the time is going to be ripe to try to push for a negotiated settlement of some kind. There are still disagreements, but they’ll put on a good show. that solidarity is important.
Describe Canada’s relationship with Japan within the G7 framework. What are some common issues or security challenges we are working on and could do more to address together?
Canada and Japan are very like-minded. They’re actually natural allies, in many ways—liberal democratic countries with a strong preference for the rule of law, strong believers in the rule of law, strong believers in institutionalism at the global level, no real conflicts of interest to speak of, and some definite complimentary interests, especially economically. It’s been a source of amazement for a lot of people, including myself that Canada and Japan haven’t developed the complexity and depth of relations that have always been there for the taking. This is changing and there’s enthusiasm now both in Ottawa and Tokyo to build relations. Canada and Japan are the two strongest champions of the G7 and that’s been true for decades.
Canada’s resource development, including LNG and critical minerals, has been highlighted as significant. Could you elaborate on Canada’s strategic importance in these areas and what it is doing or what it could do to leverage them for cooperation with allies?
Canada has a lot of strategic minerals and we’ve got a lot of territory that is mostly underdeveloped. The resources are there, it’s getting them out of the ground, in a sustainable way, and in a way that respects the rights of First Nations that is challenging. There’s a domestic political challenge there. Attracting the investment to develop these in a responsible way is another challenge. We don’t have the resources internally to do it. We’ve always looked outside for additional investments to help develop our resources. China’s been a big investor in the past, but that’s changing, that’s no longer going to be the case because we’re suspicious of China and its strategic attempt to invest in crucial resources.
Japan is a major possible source of investment in the critical mineral sector. That’s from natural gas. We have a lot of it. Shipping it out to Japan and other places in Asia has been a challenge because we just don’t have the pipeline infrastructure. We don’t have the LNG terminal infrastructure. There’s been some progress in developing those, but again, the issue there is, very significantly, indigenous rights. You have to respect the treaty rights and the non-treaty rights. There’s a lot of unceded territory in British Columbia that’s never been part of a formal treaty process. There’s also the question of how much we should be staking our own future in fossil fuels, such as natural gas. It’s better than coal and oil, but it still contributes to greenhouse gases.